Mikaela Shiffrin rolls into Killington World Cup on fire, fueled by a decision to stay put

Mikaela Shiffrin
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Maybe your most recent memory of Mikaela Shiffrin is February’s Olympics, where she failed to finish her three best events and had a top individual result of ninth place. Maybe your most recent memory is her rebound last March, winning the World Cup Finals downhill and a fourth overall season title.

Or maybe it’s what happened last weekend. For the first time in her career, now in its 12th season, Shiffrin won the first two races of a season — back-to-back slaloms in Levi, Finland. They were her 75th and 76th World Cup victories, moving closer to the only skiers with more — Lindsey Vonn (82) and Ingemar Stenmark (86).

The pursuit of those legends is a major storyline for the forseeable future, but is still far off as the women’s World Cup visits the U.S. this weekend for the only time this season. Killington, Vermont, hosts a giant slalom on Saturday and a slalom on Sunday (12:30 p.m. ET each day, NBC and Peacock).

What’s current is that Shiffrin is back on top in her trademark event after finishing last season with her worst string of slalom results since her rookie season (a DNF at the Olympics, then ninth- and eighth-place finishes in the last two World Cup slaloms).

Shiffrin stresses before every fall that she doesn’t know where she stacks up until everybody starts racing. The preseason prep period can last months and include training on three continents. So much can change for every elite skier from year to year, yet somehow Shiffrin has managed to win at least two races in 11 consecutive seasons (tying a record).

What’s different about this year? Flying. A lack of it.

Shiffrin decided to stay in Europe rather than go back home to Colorado after the Oct. 22 season-opening giant slalom in Soelden, Austria was canceled due to rain and snowfall. It’s the second time in her career — and first time in many years — that Shiffrin didn’t cross the Atlantic between Soelden and Levi, races always separated by three or four weeks.

“Not try and battle the jet lag so many times in a row,” she reasoned.

So she arrived in Levi — 110 miles inside the Arctic Circle — earlier than usual. It paid off with those wins over fields that included Slovakian Petra Vlhova, who last season not only won the Olympic slalom, but also the season-long World Cup slalom discipline title to firmly supplant Shiffrin as the world’s best in the event after a years-long rivalry.

“The last years I’ve been really chasing and trying to get back and trying to just kind of stay with it,” Shiffrin said after Sunday’s victory, which included what she called maybe her best run ever in Levi, where she owns six victories. “I’ve won some races, but it’s always like, oh, I was just lucky to be here now. This is a little different this year. I’ve been working very hard, my whole team, over the summer to try to get my highest level a little bit higher. I think these races showed that it’s there.”

There are other factors. Shiffrin said her back is healthy after it curtailed training at the start of the last two seasons. She has two new ski technicians. Who knows how things have changed for Vlhova after dethroning Shiffrin and winning Olympic gold.

Now Shiffrin heads to Killington, where she has finishes of second, third, fourth and fifth in giant slaloms. She has won all five World Cup slaloms held there. If she makes it six in a row, it will be her 50th career World Cup slalom victory and another sign that last season is truly in the past.

By otherwise staying in Europe through this fall and winter, it’ll be the closest she feels to being at home.

“This expectation just builds and builds, and I think I’ll feel some pressure,” in Killington, she said on ORF in Levi on Sunday. “When you win, that actually only gets harder.”

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Ilia Malinin wins U.S. Figure Skating Championships despite quadruple Axel miss

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One year ago, Ilia Malinin came to the U.S. Championships as, largely, a 17-year-old unknown. He finished second to Nathan Chen in 2022 and was left off the three-man Olympic team due to his inexperience, a committee decision that lit a fire in him.

After the biggest year of change in U.S. figure skating in three decades, Malinin came to this week’s nationals in San Jose, California, as the headliner across all disciplines.

Though he fell on his quadruple Axel and doubled two other planned quads in Sunday’s free skate (the most ambitious program in history), he succeeded the absent Chen as national champion.

Malinin, the world’s second-ranked male singles skater, still landed two clean quads in Friday’s short program and three more Sunday. He totaled 287.74 points and prevailed by 10.43 over two-time Olympian Jason Brown, a bridge between the Chen and Malinin eras.

“This wasn’t the skate that I wanted,” said Malinin, who was bidding to become the second man to land six quads in one program after Chen. The Virginia chalked up the flaws at least partially to putting more recent practice time into his short program, which he skated clean on Friday after errors in previous competitions.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Results

Brown, a 28-year-old competing for the first time since placing sixth at the Olympics, became the oldest male singles skater to finish in the top three at nationals since Jeremy Abbott won the last of his four titles in 2014. As usual, he didn’t attempt a quad but had the highest artistic score by 9.41 points.

Brown’s seven total top-three finishes at nationals tie him with Chen, Michael WeissBrian Boitano, David Jenkins and Dick Button for the second-most in men’s singles since World War II, trailing only Todd Eldredge‘s and Hayes Jenkins‘ eight.

“I’m not saying it’s super old, but I can’t train the way I used to,” Brown said after Friday’s short program. “What Ilia is doing and the way he is pushing the sport is outstanding and incredible to watch. I cannot keep up.”

Andrew Torgashev took bronze, winning the free skate with one quad and all clean jumps. Torgashev, who competed at nationals for the first time since placing fifth in 2020 at age 18, will likely round out the three-man world team.

Japan’s Shoma Uno will likely be the favorite at worlds. He won last year’s world title, when Malinin admittedly cracked under pressure in the free skate after a fourth-place short program and ended up ninth.

That was before Malinin became the first person to land a quad Axel in competition. That was before Malinin became the story of the figure skating world this fall. That was before Malinin took over the American throne from Chen, who is studying at Yale and not expected to return to competition.

Malinin’s next step is to grab another label that Chen long held: best in the world. To do that, he must be better than he was on Sunday.

“You always learn from your experiences, and there’s always still the rest of the season to come,” he said. “I just have to be prepared and prepare a little bit extra so that doesn’t happen again.”

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Mark McMorris breaks Winter X Games medals record; David Wise wins first title in 5 years

Mark McMorris
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Canadian snowboarder Mark McMorris broke his tie with American Jamie Anderson for the most Winter X Games medals across all sites, earning his 22nd medal, a slopestyle gold, in Aspen, Colorado.

On the final run of Sunday’s contest, McMorris overtook Norway’s Marcus Kleveland with back-to-back 1620s on the last two jumps. McMorris’ last three Aspen slopestyle titles were all won on his final run (2019, 2022).

“It’s something I never thought would ever come to me as a kid from Saskatchewan,” McMorris, 29, said on the broadcast. “Everything’s just been a bonus since I became a pro snowboarder.”

In a format introduced three years ago, athletes were ranked on overall impression of their best run over the course of a jam session rather than scoring individual runs.

McMorris won his record-extending seventh X Games Aspen men’s slopestyle title, one day after finishing fourth in big air.

“It just keeps getting crazier because I keep getting older,” he said. “People just keep pushing the limits, pushing the limits. Last night was such a downer, almost bums me out, like, dude, do I still have it? … To have one of those miracle wins where you do it on the last run and someone makes you push yourself, those are the best feelings.”

McMorris won slopestyle bronze medals at each of the last three Olympics and reportedly said last February that he was planning to compete through the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Games.

Canadian Max Parrot, the 2022 Olympic slopestyle champion, is taking this season off from competition.

Anderson, a two-time Olympic snowboard slopestyle champion, is expecting her first child.

Later Sunday, American David Wise earned his first major ski halfpipe title since repeating as Olympic champion in 2018. Wise landed back-to-back double cork 1260s to end his winning run, according to commentators.

“I wouldn’t still be out here if I didn’t think I had a chance,” Wise, 32 and now a five-time X Games Aspen champ, said on the broadcast. “I’m not going to be the guy who just keeps playing the game until everybody just begs me to stop.”

U.S. Olympian Mac Forehand won men’s ski big air with a 2160 on his last run, according to commentators. It scored a perfect 50. Olympic gold medalist Birk Ruud of Norway followed with a triple cork 2160 of his own, according to commentators, and finished third.

Canadian skier Megan Oldham added slopestyle gold to her big air title from Friday, relegating Olympic champion Mathilde Gremaud of Switzerland to silver.

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